The Russian Kitchen

18 Jul 2017

Food in Russia is a serious business. No jokes please! We’re talking national pride here. Traditional Russian food is rich and stodgy peasant-fare from the village. As Russians say, ‘shchi da kasha - pischa nasha’ (cabbage soup to porridge – that’s our food). While not always subtle and not always delicate, Russian food is delicious. Let's start with a bit of history...

Religious influences

In Russia the Russian Orthodox Church used to determine popular eating habits; at least until the start of the 20th century. The church made virtue of economic necessity and divided foods into two groups. For half the days of the year only Lenten fare was permitted: fish, vegetables and mushrooms. On the remaining days meat, milk and eggs were allowed. Result: a large number of simple, versatile and filling dishes.

Recent Changes

Industrialisation bought peasants to towns and saw middle class cooking influenced by cosmopolitan ideas. Then there was the affect of the eating habits of the Royal Courts which filtered down the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. They employed French chefs and Russians began to ‘Frenchify’ their own cooking – lots of butter, cream and garlic. But the patriotic palate has always preferred the traditional breads, grains and soups. Now for the classic dishes...


Bliny (pancakes) are an indispensable part of Russia’s culinary tradition. They’re eaten in huge quantities during Maslenitsa, the week before the Lent, when it was also a pagan tradition to eat them to celebrate the arrival of spring. During the rest of the year, bliny are never far away, and any restaurant serving Russian food has at least a few varieties on the menu. Bliny are typically served as an entree, although they are put together with just about everything. The most popular accompaniments are varenie (chunky, sweet fruit preserve) or honey, for sweet bliny, and for savoury tastes: sour cream, caviar or herring.

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